Britain’s Steve Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka) has won Stage 14 of the Tour de France, pipping French riders Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet near the line shortly after a tough final climb. Chris Froome has retained the overall lead, gaining more time on his rivals.
The 178.5km route from Rodez to Mende culminated with the second category Côte de la Croix Neuve, a 3km climb at an average gradient of 10.1% after which there was just 1.6km to the finish line.
The day’s break was large and stayed away to the finish. Among others, it included Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet, as well as yesterday’s winner, Greg Van Avermaet, plus the man he beat, Peter Sagan.
Bardet attacked what remained of the group on the steep final slopes and while Simon Yates initially followed, a second attack saw the British rider fall away.
Pinot caught Bardet at the top but Cummings caught the pair shortly afterwards and pretty much roared straight past, holding them at bay to take the victory. It was the first stage win for an African team at the Tour de France and fittingly, it came on Mandela Day.
Further back, Nairo Quintana attacked the overall contenders on the climb with Nibali and Valverde following. Chris Froome was out of team-mates but eventually reeled them in and not long after, only Froome and Quintana remained. The yellow jersey sprinted at the finish to gain another second on the Colombian, while Tejay Van Garderen, who had been second at the start of the day, finished 40 seconds later and slipped to third overall.
Stage winner, Steve Cummings of MTN-Qhubeka
“I wasn’t the strongest today and I knew there were better climbers in our lead group. I had to play the waiting game today as FDJ were looking to set up Pinot for the win. I waited and waited and eventually the last climb arrived which I rode at my own pace.
“Pinot and Bardet were just ahead and I used them as the carrot dangling in front of me for motivation. Everyone went bananas at the start of the climb but the key was to remain calm and take my opportunity when it arrived. I made contact with the two Frenchman at the top of the climb and knew they might hesitate to chase me if I got the jump on them on the flat part before the finish.
“I threw caution to wind and just went for it. It paid off and I won the stage. This is an incredible day for me and the team, with it being Mandela Day the team was motivated more than usual but I don’t think we can quite believe what has just happened. It may take a while to sink in.”
Race leader, Chris Froome of Team Sky
"As far as the racing went, it was a really good day for us," he confirmed. "The team did a great job getting me to that final climb in a good position, and then I just rode at tempo to keep things under control.
"It was a short, steep climb at 3km, and I knew what pace I had to ride. I knew Quintana wouldn’t be able to get that far away from me so I didn’t panic, rode at my own speed, and brought him back before the top. He’s my main rival on the climbs, and deserves that respect, but he wasn’t getting away from me today.
"Having over three minutes lead going into the Alps is a dream situation for me. My guys have done a phenomenal job riding on the front every day and I couldn’t have asked for any more support.
"I’d like to congratulate MTN Qhubeka for their victory today too. Having an African team take a win on Madiba Day was really special, and even better for me that it came from a fellow Brit, and former team-mate in Steve Cummings."